Posted in writing

Things I’ve learned from rewriting chapter one a million times

Sometimes, a writer just has to scrap what their doing and start over. It’s frustrating, but sometimes, rewriting something is unavoidable.

This week, I’ve restarted one of my stories for what feels like the millionth time. It probably wouldn’t be so frustrating if I have ten or so more chapters afterwards, but I don’t. Oh, I have an outline, but there’s nothing quite like knowing where you’re going. And an outline doesn’t show a writer what’s going to happen in her book. It’s the difference between knowing and experiencing.

I try to keep an open mind about rewriting and critiquing, and I’ve realized a few things.

It’s okay to rewrite something a million times

As writers, we learn and improve upon our craft by doing it over and over. There’s no short cut to being a good writer. So rewriting your work simply means you’re giving yourself more time to improve your craft.

Every time you pull out your computer or a piece of paper and jot down some words, your becoming a better writer.  Your words will be better, and your story will improve. It’s when you stop writing that things get worse.

Rewriting clarifies things

One reason why I’ve been rewriting is because I don’t know where the story is going. The vision in my head isn’t clear enough, and my characters haven’t been talking to me.

By writing the same scene over and over–or, in my case, twenty completely different scenes–I not only refined the scene into the best version itself it could be, I got to commit to paper different ideas and see which worked the best. Like painting a puzzle and trying to put it together at the same time. I had too many ideas and options, and I needed to weed through them.

Rewriting made me listen

While trying to find the plot for my book, I had to do a lot of rereading and thinking. I read my previous story, read my notes, and read my ideas. I listened to my characters, and did a lot of gut checking. What was giving me fits? What was making me stumble? Was I trying to hard? Was I, perhaps, going in the wrong direction?

It’s hard to force a story into a shape it doesn’t want to fit into. Some people will scoff at the idea of a story writing itself. We are writers–we control the story, not the other way around. Well, sometimes that’s the case. And sometimes it isn’t.

But if your story won’t go the direction you want it to, maybe it’s best to stop forcing it and see what it wants to do. That may mean giving up on something you’d been dead set on doing for forever, or killing a character or something. But what have you got to lose? Maybe your story will be better for writing itself. I do know that when you quit fighting it, writing can be easier.

Rewriting made me review the basics

I will admit, after rewriting the same part of the story over and over, I kind of forgot what I was doing. I mean, I knew it was chapter one, but I forgot what chapter ones were supposed to look like.

So I searched the internet for information.

First chapters are supposed to capture the audience’s attention, so they aren’t supposed to be boring. You introduce your characters, your setting or story world, and the plot. You start writing as late in the story as you can. Most importantly, you’re supposed to make people want to read the next page. That’s hard to do.

The review helped. It gave me bones and rules and structure to work with. Now I had a frame to dress my story on.

Concluding thoughts

I know I’m not going to be done rewriting my story. I’ve barely even started. I may have to scrap what I’ve done yet again and start over, but maybe I won’t have to do it for several more chapters.

Maybe. I won’t know until I get there. It’s hard to know where you’re going when you don’t know where you’re going.

But you won’t know where your going until you know where your going.

Confusing, but hopefully you know what I mean.

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Posted in daily life

Learning to Live with RA

So, the day has finally come for me to make this announcement. I found out what’s wrong with my knees.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

ra-introduction-fbI’ve known for eight months that something was wrong with my knees. Joints don’t just start hurting for no good reason, and yet that’s what happened to mine. I waited for the hurt to go away, and when it didn’t, I went to my doctor. She said RA–but talk to a Rheumatologist just in case.

I did. And he confirmed my doctor’s diagnosis.

How RA has changed how I live.

Before all this happened to me, I would never have imagined how coming down with RA would change me. Or that I’d come down with it at all. I was more prepared to become pregnant than I was to get sick. And unfortunately, God decided to give me RA instead of children.

One day, I felt fine. The next day, I didn’t. My knees started hurting, and they didn’t stop. They swelled up and grew inflamed.

Bending them hurt. Standing on them hurt. Stairs became just as evil as the scale in my bathroom. Getting on or off the floor–impossible.  Getting out of the tub, or even out of the car–torture. Even kneeling on my own bed was enough to make me cry.

And let’s not talk about the awards I feel like I deserve for getting out of bed in the mornings.

I stopped enjoying life. I moved and felt like an eighty year old woman. Heck, my own 86 year old grandmother moves better than me. Nothing made the pain go away. Ibuprofen only took the edge off. Braces and Icy Hot helped, but only a little bit. Teas and diets had no discernible effects. Nor did losing 30 lbs.

Then my shoulders and wrists started hurting, too. Now reaching for things, picking things up, opening doors, taking showers, and getting dressed started becoming hard, too.

I don’t know if you can understand. When you get a bruise or sprain an ankle, you’re okay because you know the pain is going to go away in a week. You can take Tylenol or Aspirin and you feel better.

My pain did not go away. Not even on good days. And I have a mild case of RA, too.

I learned to adapt.

When my doctor told me I had RA, it was bad for a while. I cried. I mourned for my dreams. We had just closed on our land. I wanted to put a farm on it, and now it looked like I wouldn’t be able to work it.

I felt like I was doomed. Doomed to live in pain for the rest of my life. Doomed to age prematurely. Doomed to never have kids. To die early. Doomed to make my husband take care of his sick wife and the farm in addition to earning a living.

My life, as I knew it, ended.

I had to find the new rules and boundaries for my life. What could I do, and not do? What movements was my body capable of? What things would I never do again (jog), what things could I do differently, and what remained the same?

How much pain could I endure? More than I thought, it turns out.

So, yes, I have learned how to live with this. How to endure. How to schedule my time and energy. To cut out things and simplify my life. I got very good at putting away my pride and asking for help. I resigned myself to not working as hard as I was accustomed, and got used to doing what I could. Which felt like very little.

Life is looking up now.

As I said, it’s been four months since that day. Time and distance have softened the bad news. I’ve come to the conclusion that even if my life changes, I don’t have to give up on my dream of having a farm and a family. God willing, I can still have both. It won’t be as I’d pictured it, but I’m still willing to work for it.

But I’ve seen a Rheumatologist now. He prescribed me medication. I already feel better.

The good news is, there’s lots of medicines for RA out there. Oh, there’s no cure, and there’s lots of things they don’t know about the disease, but there’s hope. I might move around and stand up straight again. I’ll have to resign myself to taking pills and dealing with the health insurance companies for the rest of my life–but there’s hope.

God is good. He’s provided relief and hope. Every good thing I have in my life is because of him. This disease is a trial, my thorn in the flesh, that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s not a curse–though it feels like it some day.

With God’s help, I will endure, and live every day with hope that it’ll get better.

Posted in writing

Mistakes that Make me Put Down Books

I love to read.

lost-in-a-book-2I’ve been a bookworm for most of my life. Lately, I’ve been catching up on fantasy novels. Makes sense, since I write fantasy, right? I need to have a good idea for what the genre can and can’t do. That’s the idea, anyway.

And hey, it’s a plan I enjoy. There are so many books in the genre I haven’t read–just at the library alone–I’m going to be at it for years. I’m having fun, and I’m learning a lot. Not just what the genre is capable of, but also what makes a good story.

Or a bad one.

Recently, I ran across one such book that, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages.  Knowing that fantasy novels are often slow going, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. But the further I went, the more things I saw. Blame that on my years critiquing writers’ works in progress.

Granted, not all of them mistakes, either–just annoyances so glaring I couldn’t see past them. Things that could have been said or done better.

I can’t say whether or not this novel got better the further I got in. I didn’t finish it. But honestly, as a reader, I shouldn’t have to wait until half-way through the book in order for it to get interesting.

So, young writers, let me tell you what things I saw so that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Omniscient Point of View

Let me be straight with you. Writing in omniscient point of view is not wrong. It is just not popular at the moment.

Writing in this point of view gives writers a lot of different tools with which to tell a story, the number one being that the narrator (silent or not) is essentially God. You know everything about your story world and characters. You know what they are thinking and feeling, why they do things, and what they’re going to do. You know how the story is going to turn out, and what things are going to come next.

Done right, these tools can serve to enhance a story. Used wrong, and mistakes creep up. For example, head hopping and info dumping.

Head Hopping

In first person or third person limited, it’s a big no-no to head hop. That means jumping from one point of view to another without warning. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t–it’s just advised you keep the number of heads low and switch point of views in such a fashion as to not confuse the readers.

This is not true for omniscient point of view. You are allowed to head hop whenever you want.

But the question every writer should ask themselves is, “is this confusing to the readers?” If it is, fix it. You don’t want readers to chase readers out of your story.

If you’re writing in omniscient and you’re going to head hop, be mindful of your readers.

Info Dumping

Info dumping is the dumping of large amounts of information all at once.

This is a no-no, no matter what point of view you write. Unfortunately, omniscient point of view makes it so easy to info dump. After all, the narrator knows everything. And this little bit of information–about backstory, setting, or how-this-is-done–is so convenient. Let’s just put it here. And thus your reader is left reading five pages about how such and such city got established.

Info dump.

Now, information and explaining things to readers has its place. Sometimes it’s necessary to forward the plot. Just be careful how much you put in and how you do it. Too much and it’s boring. Not enough and your readers get confused.

To be fair, the author of this book tried not to info dump. He tried to limit it, or weave it in through narration. But I still saw it, and it was still annoying.

Passive and Telling

Hopefully, if you’re a writer, you’ve heard it’s better to show and not tell. This means it’s better to show what happens and not tell what happens. You’ve also heard it’s better to write using an active voice and not passive.

These mistakes have nothing to do with point of view and everything to do with lazy writing. I’ve notice that telling what happens and writing in passive voice often go hand-in-hand. Not always, mind you, but they do. And it leads to boring writing .

I’ll do a quick example of both, but if you want more information on telling and showing, or passive and active writing, there are plenty of places with more, better explanations than me.

Passive: The ships were launched from the docks.

Active:  The ships sailed into the sunrise, leaving the docks far behind.

See how much more interesting that second one was than the first?

Telling: Adam saw the saw blades fly through the air and felt fear grip him.

Showing: The industrial mill exploded, flinging circular saw blades into the air straight toward Adam. Icy fear froze his limbs. Move! He shouted at himself, but it did no good. He stood like a frozen statue as the storm of debris overtook him.

Both these examples are written in active voice, but in the first, the writer tells us what Adam sees and feels instead of allowing the reader to experience it for himself. This not only puts you reader deeper into your character’s psyche, it allows for more detailed and expansive story telling–without the necessity of info dumping.


Really, when it comes right down to it, you want to write a story so gripping that readers won’t want to put it down. If what you’ve written doesn’t do that, you’ve failed.

But don’t despair. Keep practicing and keep learning. You’ll get better. Avoid these mistakes, and hopefully your readers won’t abandon your book–no matter what point of view it’s written in.

Posted in daily life, humor

Two days at the doctors’ office

My husband never misses an opportunity to tease me.

dancing wedding picAnd really, if he didn’t tease me, I would be worried.

For example. Two days after proposing to me, he had an infected sore on his bottom (yes, his bottom) which gave him a very high temperature and drove him to the ER. He spouted so many puns he had the nurses in stitches. They couldn’t take him sitting down. He was a pain in the butt, but he couldn’t stand it.

You get the idea.

The first thing on our to-do list this year was get some appointments to see some doctors. Dentist, eye doctor, our primary care physician. You name it, I got it booked (go me!). Naturally, I scheduled them to happen at the same time.

By this point in our marriage–three years and counting–I’ve stopped being surprised by any kind of teasing or pun-manship that comes out of my husband’s mouth. I just gear up to give as good as he. And I wasn’t disappointed.

At the eye doctor’s, he was blind as a bat. But I was a typical woman, taking thirty minutes to chose my new frames when he took only five minutes. “I knew what I wanted and I found it.” Well, excuse me for not knowing what I wanted and not finding it quickly. But I’m pleased with what we got. Thanks to this wonderful thing called insurance, we spent less on two pairs of glasses than I spent on my previous pair (which I had to pay full price for, me not having that wonderful thing called insurance at the time).

clean-teeth-catThe next day, we went to the dentist. It’d been a while for both of us, and we just wanted a cleaning and a check-up. We both had tons of x-rays and pictures taken of our teeth, and then we were put in adjoining rooms.

The best part of that? Eavesdropping.

  • Doctor to Michael. “So how did you hear about us?”
  • Michael. “Oh, through our insurance. I had my wife give ya’ll a call.”
  • Me. “Only because you hate phone calls!”

Though let’s face it. We both hate calling strangers. I just drew the short straw. But it’s a lot more fun to have a mock argument than to admit that fact.

  • Michael. “I do not hate phone calls. You hate phone calls. I was just helping you get over your fears!”

Yeah, right, Michael. Yeah right. You just keep telling yourself that.

Our fun didn’t end there. We both ended up with cavities that we decided to put off filling until the insurance would pay out more. And while Michael had some damage from teeth-grinding he didn’t know he did (I promise, I don’t drive him crazy. Okay, that crazy.), I had some serious caked-on tarter build up that really concerned the doctors.

And since they were afraid I was a sissy and couldn’t take the pain of them scraping it off my teeth, they decided to numb the area. Which was a novel experience, considering I’d never been numbed at the dentist’s before.

Just my lower lip, which was a good thing because I’m not sure I would have been able to talk or eat at all. As it was, everything felt rubbery and puffy. I drooled everywhere, talked with a lisp, couldn’t drink without it coming back out, and had the hardest time just smiling. But the weirdest part? Looking in the mirror and not seeing anything different.

But hey, I had fun making faces at my husband from across the lobby. He had fun teasing me about my lisp. We got to make the receptionist laugh, and later, I plucked out a bunch of chin whiskers and didn’t feel a thing. Not a thing.

I tell you, that’s how waxing aught to work. Just go to the dentist, get yourself all numbed up, and then go to the salon and have them pluck every single stray hair off your face. Painless and fun. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Posted in Loosing Weight, resolutions

2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year!

2017-new-yearFor many, a new year is a chance to start over. Get things right. Do things better than before. Improve oneself.

Most people don’t keep the resolutions they make. Perhaps we’re not motivated enough, or too lazy. Most likely, we just don’t want to change.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve quit beating myself up over failing to live up to my resolutions. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally kept a few resolutions, and I know I’m actually capable of changing. Or maybe I just don’t care to make myself feel bad.

That doesn’t keep me from making resolutions like everyone else.

I’m hoping to do this year differently from last year. Not because I did things wrong last year. But because I already know this year will be fraught with different challenges. My health has changed. So has my financial and spiritual status. This requires different resolutions.

2017 Resolutions: Health

Last year, I resolved to lose 20 pounds. To that end–and to my surprise–I lost 25. This year, I want to get healthier.

It may sound like the same thing, but not necessarily. Sure, I’ll continue to exercise (and hopefully lose more weight). But in the middle of losing all that weight, I developed some strange problems with my knees. They started hurting for no good reason. As did other parts of me. As you can imagine, this makes enjoying my weight loss difficult.

Now, since I’m 30 years old and the problem has not gone away, this means something is wrong. This year, in addition to limiting fast foods, sodas, chocolate and ice cream, I hope to get to the bottom of whatever it is, treat it–if not cure it–and get healthier.

2017 Resolutions: Finances

If you’ve been following me, you know we have been trying to acquire some land outside of town. About a month ago, we finally achieved that goal. Now my husband and I are in the most debt we’ve ever been. We’re excited and worried, but mostly excited.

Our goal? To pay as much of that loan off in a year as we possibly can. Also, make improvements on the land. The more we pay off and improve, the more equity we build, the more we can get for our future home loan. A home we hope to move into late next year.

It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and we’ll have to keep an eye on our spending (not that we spend that much, really), but if we succeed, it’ll be worth it.

2017 Resolutions: Spiritual

This next year, I really want to work on my spiritual life. I’m a Christian, but I feel I’ve been a little lazy with my spiritual upkeep. While I’ve been diligent in going to church, I haven’t had a habit of reading my Bible every day since I was a teen. I’ve never had a very good prayer life (outside of giving thanks for the food, and really, how much does that count?). And as for sharing the gospel? Well.

In case you can’t tell, my face is red and I’m practically hiding in shame.

Up until now, my strategy has been to be a good example. And while that’s good and fine, what do people see? I go to church regularly, and I don’t cuss. That describes a lot of people, including “Sunday Only” Christians. I want to be better than that. This world doesn’t need good people. It needs God.

So this year, my aim is to develop a healthier spiritual life. I want to get into the habit of studying the Bible and praying every day. I want to develop a ministry, whether it be teaching or otherwise, so that other people will see God in me. And not just a Sunday Only Christian.

Posted in daily life

Better News this Week

Kelly Update

For all of you who read this blog to find out how my step-father-in-law was doing, here’s an update for you.

He’s doing much better. It’s been almost two weeks since he’s had the heart attack. He’s off all of the machines–that ecmo machine and that respirator, he’s off of them. He’s off of most of the medications, and off sedation. This mean’s he’s awake, he’s talking, and he’s walking. Well, with assistance. They had to put in a second splint recently, so God willing he won’t have another heart attack for a long time. Right now, his biggest challenge is his rehab therapy. But praise God! He’s doing good, and hopefully he’ll be able to go home before Christmas.

Other Updates: Weight loss and land

Good news on other fronts. At the top of the year, I set out to loose weight. In the past, this was pretty much an exercise in pain, patience and frustration, as I’d exercise for a few months and see no results. I’d quit, feel bad for quitting, and then try again–not that it did any good.

This year has been different. I went off the pill, and without the extra hormones messing with my body, my metabolism improved. I ate less–and wanted to eat less. I managed to meet and exceed my goal. So far, I have lost 27 pounds. Woohoo!

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d actually do it. Losing weight has never been easy for me, even when I wasn’t on the pill. What actually made the difference? I’m not sure. Could be my own hard work and stubbornness. Could be God just decided to bless me this way. Could be both. I’m not discounting anything.

Now, the land.

For the past three months, we’ve been trying to buy this parcel of land just south of town. Three months. Ug, it’s been a long three months. We’ve had delay after delay–none of which were our fault. We’ve had to extend our contract with our agents at least four times.

But no more. Two weeks ago, we closed the deal. Sighed the papers. And handed over the down payment. We are now the proud owners of almost 13 acres of land. Woohoo! Pictures will hopefully be coming soon, but I have to warn you, they’ll be pretty boring. There’s nothing but survey posts on our land, but that’s okay. It’s ours and that’s what’s important.

Posted in daily life

Tragedy Strikes Our Family

I haven’t posted anything much the past few weeks because nothing much has happened in my life.

I can’t say that this week.

Early Monday morning, my step-father in law had a massive heart attack.

Thankfully, he survived the attack, but as you can imagine, this has been very hard on the family. He’s healing, but he’s not going to be leaving the hospital any time soon. As for what the future holds for him and the family, no one has any idea. We’re just praying that he lives and gets better soon.

My mother-in-law has pretty much moved into the hospital. My husband and I have been spending our evenings there, doing whatever we can to help and support her. That usually consists of nothing more than buying her meals and doing laundry for her–but even just being there and giving her hugs helps.

My mother-in-law has no shortage of people wanting to help. And not just her, but her husband as well. I was just blown away by the sheer number of people coming out of the woodwork, wanting to know if they can do anything. His family, extended family, friends I’d never heard of or seen, church family, and coworkers. My step-father-in-law is a cop, and well loved on the work force. They decided to keep someone there at all times.

And not just them. We’ve got my mother-in-law’s extended family and friends, my friends and family, my husband’s friends and family. We’ve got church members and cops out the wazoo–yes, I mentioned them twice, but believe me, there’s a lot of cops–and they’re all stopping by the hospital with prayers and hugs and support.

I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening in the church, that when a beloved member is badly sick or critically injured, everyone just comes out to support them. I’ve done my share of support. But this is the first time I’ve seen it up close and personal, and I’m just blown away.

I just can’t help but thank God for His family and for everything else He’s given us in our time of need. The support and prayers. The competent and caring doctors and nurses. The hospital. It’s all been a blessing, and we couldn’t have held up as well as we have without it.

We’ve got a long row to hoe, but I know that with God’s help, we’ll get through it.